Sunday, May 6, 2012


Just a few minutes to spare while some paint dries to put out a couple of
thoughts on the recent Salute show at the Excel.

I went with an open mind. I went with an open wallet. I went, increasingly
disillusioned and frankly bored with GW games and products, with an eye to
discovering some new games to play and models to buy. Wayland Games
will be opening their new warehouse and gaming centre near me quite soon
so I thought I might get a headstart on collecting a new system.

Over an afternoon of trailing around the Excel, talking to players and reps,
and reading rules and demoing games, a couple of big differences became
apparent between Games Workshop and the competition.

When it comes to low barriers to entry, pretty much every major alternative to
GW games are streets ahead. Warmachines and Hordes, Infinity and
Mantic's offerings all offer free rule sets and cheap miniatures. It can't have
escaped anyone's notice Mantic are practically trying to give their mini's
away - barely a week passes without some mega-bundle deal arriving in my
Inbox, imploring me to buy a thousand Warpath mini's for £10.50 (or a
figuratively similar price). These boxes all come with free rules and there
were indeed several bundle deals at Salute giving free leader blisters, bags,
and the like with purchases of new armies. Warmahordes also come with the
stat cards you need to field the models and free rules are readily available to
download. Infinity has slightly more complex rules, meaning a rulebook
seems a must, but, like Privateer's games, you need very few miniatures to
start playing the game. Compare these startup costs with 40k or WFB,
where you are likely to have to spend around £100 just to get started, then
another £100 to get competitive, on models that aren't cheap to begin with
and increase in price with chilling regularity.

But, and this is important, GW is in turn streets ahead of all its competitors in
a key area - sales training.

Take my experience at the Privateer Press stand for starters.

I turned up, nice and early in the day, big smile on my face and asked a member of the
'street team' for a demo of Warmachine. 'Ah,' he said, 'can I show you
Hordes instead - its pretty much the same as Warmachine?'. Not a great
start, not showing the customer the product he has asked for, but I was in a
cooperative mood so I said 'OK' and off we went. Twenty or so minutes later we wrapped things up and I told my guide and another member of the team that had wandered over to help explain some
rules that I would really like to play the Retribution of Scyrah but didn't know
what models I should buy as there was no starter set for that faction.
'Hmmm,' they said, 'there is a recommended starter list though.'. When it
became apparent they weren't going to tell me what it was, I asked them for
some names and they rattled off half a dozen. I figured I could memorize
the list as it seemed to be largely the names of significant monsters from
Greek mythology. Then there was another awkward silence which I broke by
walking away to look for some of these beasties on the display racks along
the back wall of the stand. It turned out they didn't have most of the names I
was looking for in stock (perhaps explaining the crew's reluctance to help me
find them). They didn't have them at Wayland's stand either, although at least
the store staff there were friendly and helpfully suggested popping in to the
warehouse after the show wrapped up.

Turns out PP were actually the best customer experience I had that day. At
the Infinity table I got a game with a very friendly guy who unfortunately was
new to the system and didn't know all the rules. At the Mantic area I watched
a game of Warpath for a bit before asking one of the company reps if I
could look at the rules on the table in front of her. She said 'yes', then walked
away. Well, if you're not that interested in potential customers, I'm not that
interested in playing your game.

Its a shame really. I get why it happens - noone in the industry does retail
except GW so there's not an abundance of sales staff working for anyone
else. But seriously, why go to the trouble and expense of setting up stands
at the biggest sales opportunity in the UK and man them with people who
don't know the games, don't have an interest in bringing in new players, and
can't be bothered to even deal with people who come and ask them
questions? The marketing managers who come set these things up should
be just a little bit ashamed that the people they put in place were so
unprepared or unable to do the job they needed too. The creatives who work so hard and do such a good job at making entertaining games with gorgeous miniatures should be quite angry they are not being marketed in any way close to effectively.

So, I came away empty handed. The games I wanted to play didn't want me.
The mini's I wanted to buy weren't for sale. And so I shall probably end up
just pumping more money into GW - a company that scorns me, but still
works hard to pull me ever closer (yeah, I'm aware thats pretty close to
definitions of abusive relationships or, perhaps more aptly, those between
crack addicts and their dealers). They want to rip me off, but at least they
want me.

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